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August 11, 2001 August 4, 2001 July 28, 2001 July 21, 2001 July 14, 2001 July 7, 2001 June 30, 2001 June 23, 2001 June 16, 2001 June 9, 2001 June 2, 2001 May 26, 2001 May 19, 2001 May 12, 2001 May 5, 2001 2001 Stock Meeting April 21, 2001 April 14, 2001 April 7, 2001 March 31, 2001 March 24, 2001 March 17, 2001 March 10, 2001 March 3, 2001 February 24, 2001 February 17, 2001 February 10, 2001 February 3, 2001 January 27, 2001 January 20, 2001 January 13, 2001 January 6, 2001 December 30, 2000 December 23, 2000 December 16, 2000 December 9, 2000 December 2, 2000 November 24, 2000 November 17, 2000 November 10, 2000 November 4, 2000 October 28, 2000 October 21, 2000 October 14, 2000 October 7, 2000 September 30, 2000 September 23, 2000 September 16, 2000 September 9, 2000 September 2, 2000 August 26, 2000 August 19, 2000 August 12, 2000 July 29, 2000 July 22, 2000 July 15, 2000 July 1, 2000 June 24, 2000 June 17, 2000 June 10, 2000 June 3, 2000 May 27, 2000 May 20, 2000 May 13, 2000 May 6, 2000 April, 2000

Highlights—September 1, 2012

  • Albany Times-Union: Foreigners drive IBM gains in state Firm, which has millions in state contracts, has brought hires to Albany. By Larry Rulison.
  • Yahoo! IBM Employee Issues message board: "Re: Sound familiar?" by Paul Sutera. Excerpts: I work with the low-cost 3rd world every day Sam. I'm not retired yet, and I see exactly what IBM is and is not getting from the 3rd world worker. Now IBM is doubling down because the 2nd quarter stunk in India, China and the GMUs (That's Growth Market Units).

    Executives are swearing in meetings, and there's a doubling down to try to win a high profile sale/footprint.

    Too bad IBM relies on 3rd party consulting companies where they spilled a lot of money to say: We have trained hundreds of contractors to be IBM Mainframe experts. The first thing these newly-minted mainframe experts do is try to steer the software to OpenSource, and then steer the customer clear off the IBM hardware. You get what you pay for. Highly skilled well-compensated Middle-Class workforces with job security bought and paid for your retirement Sam.

    We don't need a pro-management pro-outsourcing scree suggesting that outsourcing might be justified because American workers were not-profitable. Generations of profitable American corporations paid their employees well. The paradox of running a corporation to maximize profits is that profits depend on workers like those at Sensata. Bless the 170 workers and maybe we should put our energies towards excoriating Bain rather than towards the pillory of our fellow Middle-Class workers.

  • Yahoo! IBM Employee Issues message board: "Re: Sound familiar?" by Paul Sutera. Full excerpt: What is needed is the "I got mine" generation to realize that pensions, medicare, Social Security are things that earlier Americans had fought hard to give their generation. And that just because "I got mine", doesn't mean the gains of the Middle-Class in the 20th Century cannot be lost in a new Gilded Era. Yet consistently their votes are aiding and abetting a new anti middle-class pro-corporate agenda.
  • Yahoo! IBM Employee Issues message board: "Re: Sound familiar?" by Paul Sutera. Full excerpt: I don't doubt profits are higher manufacturing some things in China. But the world economy depends on the stock market, and the stock market depends not just on rosy profit numbers but on Middle-Class data like unemployment, and the stability of first-world economies.

    Profits may go up as jobs in the first world are lost. That is temporary. That's why profits reached record values in the bloodbath that was 2009. Continued outsourcing is not sustainable. Profits don't drive world economies, the middle-class consumer drives world economies.

    The replacement of middle-class jobs with 80 cents an hour jobs in China eventually causes the world economy to teeter, revenues to flatten and fall (see IBM's falling revenues), and a new round of firings and layoffs. China's growth rate also flattens as there are fewer middle-class people to buy the "toys" they produce but cannot afford themselves.

    If there is a P&L statement showing Sensata losing money in the last 2 years, you can certainly post it here. Then again, perhaps they are taking charges against earnings for the "relocation" costs, so they can qualify for the "off-shoring" tax-break. The dialog is only sharpening and perhaps the next decade will bring the final discrediting of "trickle-down" economics.

  • Yahoo! IBM Employee Issues message board: "Re: Sound familiar?" by "trexibmer". Full excerpt: Paul, Agreed! What also hurts like hell now for me is my children aren't going to get what my parents got and will get less of what I got (probably no cash pension at all for them, conceivably no 401(K) matching funds either, might have to pay for all their medical coverage).

    The pride my grandfather had knowing his son, my father, did better than he did and that each generation after him did better basically ended halfway through my IBM career when folks like me lost our promised defined benefit pension and our retirement medical coverage.

    That is when the Gilded Age of American Greed by Corporations to wipe out the Middle Class commenced by reckless deregulation, offshoring, and buying and getting their way with the USA government.

    People think a union can't help. But, seriously, what entity at this point available to us to get us back on track to what many of our parents had: a pension, some security, company paid retirement medical benefits, and a real retirement? LIFE IS NOT GOOD until things get done to restore worker dignity, rights, and justice. That is what unions try to do.

    The only folks that get the entitlements now are the 1-2%ers: the new American royalty. With riches and perks our parents and grandparents just can't believe.

  • Yahoo! IBM Employee Issues message board: "IBM's pay raise budget?" by "trexibmer". Full excerpt: Did IBM mention how much they paid out in raises this year? Or is this information now not divulged, like site employee numbers, those RAed, those remaining, to supposedly "stay competitive"?

    IBM is hoarding cash and trying to acquire (by buying niche companies) it's way to stay in existence. They are continuing to buy their own way through stock repurchasing without growing revenue streams by $.01 by the practice. The gravy train will surely end: it can't go on forever with basically flat revenues no matter how much financial engineering hocus pocus they keep doing despite the acquisitions.

    Big Blue is surely becoming an entity that doesn't comment on anything it seems. It does not show security; it shows an uncertainty.

  • Glassdoor IBM reviews. Selected reviews follow:
    • Slow and tired, the extreme contrast of an innovative startup.” Current Senior Software Developer. Pros: Job security and some social benefits. Ability to work (but not travel) in an international environment.

      Cons: Big and slow, with a management culture from the 60s. All focus is on cost and numbers, enforced by rigid processes. Logic has no place in any monetary equation, all decisions (irrespective of size) are driven by rules and regulations set in stone. Time or results do not matter, cost does. Employees are "resources" that cost money, the less the better.

      Management is based on control and approvals rather than trust and inspiration. IBM is still the same hardware factory it was back in the glory days (60s/70s), but time has passed and the world has changed. The old ways don't stand up to the expectations of current customers or employees.

      As an organization, IBM is hopelessly out of date. It stays alive by buying innovative and successful companies that slowly suffocate or dry out as acquired talent abandon ship. Organic growth or innovation on the software market is simply non-existent.

      Advice to Senior Management: Trust your employees, they actually try to do a good job for you. Leverage the skill and embrace the spirit of acquired companies, they were successful for a reason. Don't force them into the outdated IBM culture.

    • IBM rewards results not efforts! Really?” Current Employee in Markham, ON (Canada). Pros: There are some extremely good people working at IBM (so much so that it makes you wonder why they stay.) Cons: The title says it all. This is what they tell you even after your colleague next to you loses his job and you have to pick up his/her workload on top of yours. But doing double the work is not considered "value add"...thats simply being a "team player" for which there are no merit increases. Funny how this doesn't seem to apply to managers—most of them don't get results, their people do. Advice to Senior Management: Get real and stop exploiting people. When a person is doing 2 jobs and is still made to feel like he's not contributing...this is incredibly poor management and leadership. Why not bring back the rating system for managers, and employee morale surveys—you are maniacal about CSAT for clients, why not your own employees...they are inextricably linked.
    • Only good as a stepping stone” Current Software Engineer. Pros: Somewhat stable, have an option work from home when you "need" to, and receive e-mails every month about a new acquired company Cons: Things have changed. You have to work insane hours to move up and they expect you to do extra work just to get an average rating. The raises have been a joke if you even get it. This company is good as a stepping stone.
    • Everything that's wrong with a Corporation” Current Senior Engineer in Bedford, England (United Kingdom). Pros: In 3 years I`ve yet to find a single positive of working for this woeful excuse for an organisation. Cons: No chance EVER of a payrise or a bonus, treated like a number and nothing more. Expected to work on other accounts no matter the inconvenience or wear and tear to the personal vehicle. Their travel expense procedure is stuck in the dark ages and if you don't bend over when asked they like to make using your holiday entitlement almost impossible. Advice to Senior Management: Actually speak to your staff listen to how they feel and stop treating them like dirt. You have some great employees but the way you treat them they won't be IBM staff much longer!
    • More emphasis is on placing employees just into any project without considering their interests or skills.” Current Employee in Bangalore (India). Pros: Good work life balance. Environment is cordial. Cons: People interest should be taken care of. Pay them good as almost everyone works for money.
    • "Many career opportunities, but low chance of salary increases.” Current Employee in Brno (Czech Republic). Pros: The Delivery Center offers a lot of opportunities for experienced professionals as well as graduates and people without much experience in the IT. Mostly young people in the teams. Great for career development, learning and creating invaluable connections. Secure job. Cons: Really hard to get salary increases. You can work for the same money for a long time, unless you agree on a higher salary from the very beginning. Weak management. Employee benefits are getting less over time. Brno is not a particularly interesting town. Advice to Senior Management: Since there is no one to protect employees interests, the Delivery Center needs managers with character following not only the HQ orders, but also considering the interests of employees.
    • IBM Review” Current Employee in Delhi (India). Pros: Good place to grow professionally in the long run. Supportive management, especially in times of personal crisis. Cons: Some disparity in work culture between different units. Rotational opportunities are rarely available considering that this is a global company with business spanning a huge variety of technology and offices in almost every corner of the globe. Advice to Senior Management: 360 degree feedback required on a regular basis
    • IBM Egypt review” Current IT Specialist in Giza (Egypt). Pros: Very good career. clear objectives, helps your in your career planning and growth. Open for internal movement and international career opportunities. Cons: Work/life balance is the worst thing at IBM, you are more like married to your job.
    • It was a bad experience working in IBM” Former Senior Systems Engineer in Bangalore (India). Pros: Availability of Work From Home. Cons: The managers are the whole and sole. There is no concept of HR whom you can get in touch with in case of any issues with the manager. Advice to Senior Management: Please bring in a better HRM in place.
    • ibm project manager” Current Employee. Pros: Competitive pay, decent vacation, challenging IT projects. Cons: Resource actions, lack of recognition, outsourcing
    • IBM bad choice to work with.” Current Employee. Pros: No reason to work with this company. Cons: Nothing is good about this job. Advice to Senior Management: PBC assessments/performance appraisals have to be absolutely honest and objective appraisal of employee performance and not based on factors other job related performance. -If your employees ratings are not honest and objective you won't know who your best people are and will end of a bunch of manager favorites who don't measure up. Dangerous, unless you are planning for another near-death experience for IBM. Allow cascade promotions just like you allow for Executive levels otherwise in places like India employees have plenty of choices. Ambitious ones will just walk out and get what they want on their own.
  • Alliance for Retired Americans: Friday Alert. This week's articles include:
    • Republican Platform Calls for Sweeping Changes to Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid
    • Romney-Ryan Medicare Proposal Would Shift Costs to Patients
    • Obama Touts Success of Health Reform for Seniors
    • Alliance Mourns Loss of Stu Leibowitz
    • Commentary: On Labor Day, Educate Younger People About Unions
  • Huffington Post: Social Security: 4 Reasons To Collect As Soon As You Can. By Tom Sightings. Excerpts: Most financial experts tell you to wait at least until full retirement age, and maybe longer, before signing up for Social Security. There's a good reason for this. Social Security is like an annuity, providing you with a guaranteed monthly payment for the rest of your life, no matter how long you live. It addresses the problem of: What do I do if I run out of money? With Social Security, you never run out of money.

    For many of us -- people born between 1943 and 1954 -- our regular retirement age is 66. You're eligible to start receiving Social Security as early as age 62. But you suffer a penalty. You can also delay taking Social Security until age 70. Then you get a bonus. ...

    So why would you grab your Social Security benefit when it's first offered? There are four good reasons.

  • In These Times: What Social Security Crisis? By Bhaskar Sunkara. Excerpts: Recent polls confirm that the Romney-Ryan Medicare plan is deeply unpopular in key swing states with aging populations – Ohio, Wisconsin, and Florida, among them. The debate over Medicare overstates the severity of the crisis, but few doubt there is a problem. We overpay for services compared to other industrialized nations. The solution, however, is more in the direction of expanding the subscriber pool by instituting universal healthcare than privatizing the system absolutely.

    The other half of the “entitlement crisis” is a complete fantasy. Social Security, now celebrating its 77th year, isn’t in dire straits and can be easily sustained. The grouping of Social Security and Medicare together serves the interest of those neoliberals on both sides of the aisle who would like to drastically overhaul the former.

    Jeff Madrick, a fellow at the Roosevelt Institute, has a useful piece extolling the successes of the social security–which 60 percent of elderly people depend on for more than half their income–and explaining how its “crisis” is overstated. No surprise the actual solvency problem lies in inequality and a lack of redistribution, not big government:

    Tax revenues are reduced because incomes have stagnated for so many. Due to an earnings cap above which taxes are not collected, now about $110,000 a year, combined with the rapid rise of incomes for high-end earners, some 17 percent of aggregate earnings are not covered by the payroll tax. In 1980, only 10 percent were not covered.
  • BellTel Retiree Newsletter: Directory Operations Retirees Health Benefits Cancelled (PDF). Excerpts: In late June, SuperMedia informed retirees who were transferred from Verizon, that their health benefits would be reduced or eliminated. SuperMedia blamed the high cost of health care for its decision.

    For some retirees who are not yet eligible for Medicare, SuperMedia cut 75% of the amount of money the company contributed to retiree medical, dental, vision, and life insurance. The retirees’ premiums were raised to make up the difference, and may be raised again in 2013 to keep up with this health care. By 2014, this insurance will be paid solely by the retiree. ...

    In the cancellations packet received, one of the frequently asked questions addressed why SuperMedia retirees - who retired from a predecessor Verizon company, were losing their benefits. It said that SuperMedia’s business climate was different than the communications giant Verizon, and they felt this cancellation was needed to stay competitive in the market.

    Editor's note: This newsletter is an excellent read—it shows how corporate America uses acquisitions and buyouts to renege on long-term retiree benefit promises.

  • Retirement Town Hall: Lump sum “sweeps”: Plan sponsor considerations. By Jeff Bradley. Excerpts: Many defined benefit (DB) plan sponsors are in the process of considering whether to offer a lump sum “sweep” to terminated deferred vested participants. Essentially, a “sweep” is a plan amendment that offers lump sums to terminated vested participants during a temporary period.

    By removing these participants from the plan in 2012, sponsors may accomplish the following:

    • Take advantage of an arbitrage opportunity by cashing out terminated vested participants using 2011 interest rates—as interest rates continue to decline in 2012, this opportunity may not be available in upcoming plan years
    • Cause the plan to experience a gain resulting from terminated participants forgoing early retirement subsidies to which they would otherwise be entitled—because lump sums do not need to include the value of early retirement subsidies, the plan may experience a gain when those eligible for such subsidies elect to take an immediate lump sum payment
    • Save future administrative expenses associated with these participants, such as Pension Benefit Guaranty Corporation (PBGC) premiums and plan administration costs—the passage of MAP-21 will cause fixed-rate PBGC premiums to increase significantly in the near future, from $35 to $42 in 2013 and to $49 (indexed) in 2014 and beyond
    • Transfer the longevity risk associated with these participants to the participants themselves
    • Reduce interest rate risk from the plan to the extent that cashing these participants out lowers the plan’s liability duration—terminated vested participants typically have very high liability durations
  • Yahoo! IBM Pension and Retirement Issues message board: "Lump sum “sweeps”: Plan sponsor considerations" by Kathi Cooper. Excerpt: Consultants are still pushing 'Sweeps'. I see it as the 'next phase' of deleveraging all labor costs. Am posting some of their stuff here: http://www.retirementtownhall.com/?p=3598
  • HowInSeattle: Bernie Sanders: "Deficit hawk hypocrites". Excerpts: Mitt Romney, Paul Ryan and the Republican Party are now mounting a massive attack against Social Security and other programs. Using "deficit reduction" as their rationale, they are attempting to dismantle every major piece of legislation passed since the 1930s that provides support and security to working families. They are being aided by at least 23 billionaire families, led by the Koch brothers and Sheldon Adelson, who are spending hundreds of millions of dollars in this campaign as a result of the disastrous Citizens United Supreme Court decision. Despite paying the lowest effective tax rate in decades, the billionaires want more tax breaks for the very rich. Despite the fact that the elimination of strong regulations caused the Wall Street meltdown and a terrible recession, the billionaires want more deregulation. Despite outsourcing of millions of good-paying American jobs to China and other low-wage countries, the billionaires want more unfettered free trade.

    At this pivotal moment in American history, it's important to note how we got into this deficit crisis, who was responsible and what is the fairest way to address it. Let us never forget that when Bill Clinton left office in 2001, this country enjoyed a healthy $236 billion SURPLUS.

    Under George W. Bush and his fellow "deficit hawks," we went to war in Afghanistan and Iraq. Bush and Congress "forgot" to pay for those wars that will end up adding some $3 trillion to our national debt. Where were Paul Ryan and the other "deficit hawks" when we spent trillions on wars and added to the deficit? They voted for those policies.

    Under George W. Bush and his fellow "deficit hawks," we gave huge tax breaks to the wealthiest people in this country, which cost $1 trillion over a decade. Where were Paul Ryan and the other "deficit hawks" when Bush and Congress spent a trillion dollars on tax breaks for the very rich and added to our national debt? They voted for those policies.

    Under George W. Bush and his fellow deficit hawks, Congress passed an overly expensive Medicare prescription drug program written by the insurance companies and drug industry. The government was barred from negotiating lower drug prices with the pharmaceutical industry under the program, which will end up adding $400 billion to our national debt over a 10-year period. Where were Paul Ryan and the other "deficit hawks" when Bush and Congress spent $400 billion for a much too expensive prescription drug program? They voted for those policies.

    Now, having run up huge deficits, our born-again "deficit hawks" want to cut every program in sight to save money. In order to cover the costs they incurred in Iraq and Afghanistan, they want to cut Social Security. In order to cover the costs of the tax breaks for the rich, they want to cut Medicare and Medicaid. In order to cover the insurance-company-written Medicare prescription drug program, they want to cut education and food stamps. ...

    There are serious and responsible ways to move this country toward deficit reduction. Unfortunately, that's not what Romney and Ryan are talking about. For them, it's the same old Republican saga: more tax breaks for millionaires and billionaires, and more austerity and pain for the most vulnerable people in this country.

  • Bloomberg BMA: Cash Balance Plan Ordered to Pay $18 Million for Improper Benefit Calculation. Excerpt: A cash balance pension plan must pay a certified class of plan participants $18,677,671 in additional plan benefits and prejudgment interest as a result of its failure to use a whipsaw calculation in determining lump-sum distributions of participants who terminated employment before their normal retirement age, the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Wisconsin ruled Aug. 24 (Ruppert v. Alliant Energy Cash Balance Pension Plan, W.D. Wis., No. 3:08-cv-00127-BBC, 8/24/12).
  • Insured Retirement Institute: Significant Number of Boomers and Gen-Xers Falling Behind in March Toward Secure Retirement. Excerpt: The Insured Retirement Institute (IRI) today released a new research report detailing--based on several common retirement planning indicators--how a financially secure retirement could be slipping away from significant numbers of Baby Boomers and Generation Xers. The report found that significant portions of these demographic groups have insufficient savings, lack investment knowledge, and have not taken important retirement planning steps such as calculating a retirement savings goal or consulting with a financial professional.
New on the Alliance@IBM Site
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  • Job Cut Reports
    • Comment 08/27/12: Security Industry Services in Canada (under Fss) was told last week that they would soon be leveraging global resources,and we all know what that means... -The BoBo-
    • Comment 08/30/12: Re: NobodyImportant I have to agree. First lines are definitely in the line of fire. Second lines, probably. From the RA in March, I do for a fact MANY"older" first lines (at the least) were forced to retire (not a true RA, but same difference). Glad I got out when I did. I got tired of sliding down the ladder dodging RA bullets on the way. It's so nice to now work for a company that has respect for YOU and what you do. -anonymous-
    • Comment 08/30/12: I'm mailing in my membership form and check today. I can't go into details on my specific circumstances, but they're simply beyond belief. I'm not sure how much longer I'll be able to tolerate this place. It very well could be too late for me, but maybe not too late for others. members++ -dazed and confused-
    • Comment 08/30/12: Another paycut, non exempt employees were told they can work zero overtime until at least the end of September -John-
    • Comment 08/31/12: Looks like they ran the numbers already for 3rd Quarter and they need more blood out of us stones. Contractors were told today that they have to take yet 5 more days off with no pay between now and Sept 14. There are only 9 business days between now and then. And that's assuming you've already taken the initial five days and are caught up. If not, I guess you won't be logging on for awhile. And don't forget - you also can't take off unless you've made sure you've arranged for coverage for your work! -Looks Like I'll Be Eating Ramen Noodles Daily-
    • Comment 08/31/12: 2 factors in how/why folks get RA: Over all 'ranking' in 2nd line. Bottom 1/3 is dangerous. Bottom 5% is gone any day now. The other factor is 'are you a key resource? Some managers are more forth coming about where an employee is. Ask questions, and listen to the answers (don't wait for PBC feedback) FYI....At least in my area, PBC ratings are known to managers BEFORE PBCs are formally submitted. -Anon1234-
    • Comment 09/02/12: anon1234 as a retired 2nd line you are somewhat correct. Each 1st line does their own ranking and brings it in to the project mgr. Then the negotiations start between the 2nd line and the 1st lines. The 1's and 3's are traded based on contribution or brown nose-rs.At that point all of the PBC's are defined. Everyone refuses to believe there is a better performer then you. Life is not that simple. -benthere-
    • Comment 09/03/12: Not sure if I am a key resource, but I know that I have to find my own backup from other teams, this time from another country (UK), I'm no longer worried about getting RA'd. I WANT to get RA'd at this point as I have been seriously looking for something outside of IBM for 6 months. If I leave, at least one project will completely fail. I've been reporting to a manager in India (I'm a US employee) since Q1 of this year. I figure my career was over the instant they assigned me a manager in India. They did stick someone in as my US manager in Blue Pages, in name only since IBM seems to be violating their own rules in assigning me a manager from another country. -IndiaBusinessMachines-
    • Comment 09/03/12: More middle management ranks and expanding layers is a sign of a company in trouble. A possible sign of a dying company. A company trying to throw more supposedly important to the biz bodies to fix a dire situation. You need to unionize to protect what you presently have and stop RAs before it is too late to save IBM. Management can't save it for you, especially middle management on up. The middle managers, IBM director and up, want to pad their pockets in salary increases, bonuses, and qualify for SERPs and "top hat plans" so if the company goes under they make off with their booty. The rest of the assets are divided up in bankruptcy court. Guess where that puts all the 2nd line managers, 1st line managers, and employees? On the street, pounding them. With no job, severance, no stock value for IBM in their portfolios and a pension (if they are lucky to get one) administered by the PBGC for pennies on the dollar. -2015dust-
News and Opinion Concerning Health Savings Accounts, Medical Costs and Health Care Reform
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  • Washington Examiner: RNC swag bag has Romney book with unaltered health care section. By Philip Klein. Excerpt: All credentialed media checking into the Republican National Convention are being given a swag bag featuring brochures and items from various sponsors such as sunglasses and a pocket fan. But the bag also contains a copy of the original hardcover version of Mitt Romney’s book, No Apology, in which he suggested his approach to health care in Massachusetts could be accomplished in the rest of the country.

    The allusion was later altered for the paperback version of the book, a change that became a contentious issue during the Republican primary.

    On page 177 of the hardcover version of No Apology that’s being given out at the RNC, Romney describes his Massachusetts health care law and writes: “We can accomplish the same thing for everyone in the country, and it can be done without letting government take over health care.

    This language was problematic, because it implied, contrary to what Romney has said elsewhere, that Romney thought his Massachusetts health care law could be a model for the nation. Such phrasing complicated his argument for why his law was different from President Obama’s national one.

  • National Center for Policy Analysis: Same Doctor Visit, Double the Cost. Excerpts: Since the passage of President Obama's health care law, hospitals are increasing their size by acquiring private practices. Hospitals say the acquisitions will make health care more efficient. But it is also having another effect: higher prices, says the Wall Street Journal.
    • In 2000, 5 percent of specialty physicians that saw patients in hospitals were employed by a hospital.
    • Today, that number has risen to 25 percent.
    • As a result, physicians get paid for their services at a hospital's rate, which is more than what insurers pay private doctors.
    • Furthermore, some services that were once performed at independent facilities may start being billed as outpatient procedures at a hospital, sometimes doubling the cost.
    • Additionally, it costs more to operate outpatient clinics which must meet strict regulations and treat patients that don't have insurance, contributing to the increase in rates.

    Some examples of the rate increases include:

    • A magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) at a private practice ranged from $391 to $742 while at a hospital it cost between $1,591 and $2,226.
    • A 15 minute doctor visit cost Medicare $70 at a free-standing clinic, but cost $124 at a hospital.
  • Washington Post opinion: Republicans steal Medicare from the Democrats. By Eugene Robinson. Excerpts: Who knew? In the hall-of-mirrors parallel universe where the Republican National Convention is taking place, the GOP stands tall and proud as the party of Medicare.

    I’m still a little confused about the historical timeline in this alternate reality. Was it President Goldwater who signed into law the nation’s health-care guarantee for seniors? Was it President Dole who made sure the program remained solvent? Did John McCain win in 2008?

    It must be that in RNC World, the past simply doesn’t exist. There is no other explanation for all the Great Society rhetoric coming from Republicans who once claimed to favor small government, limited entitlements and a balanced budget.

    At a breakfast hosted by Bloomberg News on Monday morning, Mitt Romney’s campaign brain trust claimed to welcome a fight with President Obama over the future of Medicare. I say “claimed” because the Romney team surely recognizes that putting Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) on the ticket means not being able to run away from Ryan’s plan — endorsed by House Republicans — to transform Medicare into a voucher program.

    This radical change would, as Democrats claim, “end Medicare as we know it.” Instead of the current guarantee that the program pays for medical costs, Ryan’s plan would give seniors a set amount of money each year to buy private health insurance. If that sum isn’t enough to pay for the necessary coverage — or to pay for traditional Medicare — seniors would have to make up the difference. ...

    Remember, this is a parallel universe. We’re supposed to forget that Obamacare preserves Medicare as a guarantee — a promise that all Americans will have health care in their golden years — while the Romney-Ryan plan would subject seniors to the vagaries of the private insurance market and potentially cost them an extra $6,400 a year. ...

    Let’s return to the real world. As McCaughey said in a moment of lucidity, Medicare has fundamentally transformed the experience of aging in this country by providing a guarantee of health care. What she didn’t acknowledge is that it was Democrats who conceived of Medicare, passed it into law and kept it viable all these years. It was Republicans who denounced the program as “socialized medicine” — and who now want to replace Medicare’s guarantee with a system of vouchers.

  • Talking Points Memos: GOP Details Huge Medicare Change In Leaked Platform. By Sahil Kapur. Excerpts: In a leaked party platform circulating on the eve of their convention, Republicans reveal in candid detail how they intend to remake Medicare.

    The platform, snagged by Politico on Friday afternoon after the Republican National Committee accidentally posted it to its website before taking it down, is scheduled to be approved at the convention early this week.

    The text details the privatization policy that GOP lawmakers have supported for years, and that Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan are selling as necessary to “save” Medicare. But in an unusual twist, it addresses the specific aspect of the proposal that makes it a departure from what Americans know as “Medicare.”

    “The first step is to move the two programs [Medicare and Medicaid] away from their current unsustainable defined-benefit entitlement model to a fiscally sound defined-contribution model,” the draft platform reads. “While retaining the option of traditional Medicare in competition with private plans, we call for a transition to a premium-support model for Medicare, with an income-adjusted contribution toward a health plan of the enrollee’s choice. This model will include private health insurance plans that provide catastrophic protection, to ensure the continuation of doctor-patient relationships.”

    The esoteric language gets to the heart of the change that ends the basic structure of Medicare. Since its inception in 1965, Medicare has been a government-run insurance program that directly pays medical bills for the elderly per their needs (i.e. “defined benefit”). Republicans want to turn it into a partially privatized system that pays seniors a fixed amount to buy their own health insurance (i.e. “defined contribution”).

    “Under the defined contribution approach envisaged by the Rivlin-Ryan plan [a proposal that’s remarkably similar to Romney’s], most of the risk of future health-care cost increases would be shifted onto the shoulders of Medicare beneficiaries,” Uwe Reinhardt, a health policy expert at Princeton University, said last year. “This feature makes the proposal radical.”

    The nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office has found that the plan will raise seniors’ out-of-pocket medical expenses by thousands of dollars, a fact Democrats hasten to point out. The draft Republican platform claims that the competition among private insurance plans will lead to major cost savings, though little evidence exists to support this argument.

  • Yahoo! IBM Employee Issues message board: "Been there. Done that. Defined Contribution Plans" by Kathi Cooper. Full excerpt: A Defined Contribution Plan which will 'save' our current system? Yes, I've heard this one before. Kathi.
  • Yahoo! IBM Employee Issues message board: "Re: Been there. Done that. Defined Contribution Plans" by Paul Sutera. Full excerpt: Gee, same idea as the cash-balance pension too. The idea that you were never "contributing" before to your pension...when in fact, that tiny starting salary at IBM was because part of your full salary was a deferred pension. Same for Medicare - those line items in your paycheck for Medicare - pretend these don't exist either. No you haven't been contributing. Yeah right!
  • Washington Post: Zero out of 512 employers plan to drop health insurance, survey says. By Sarah Kliff. Excerpts: Employers are getting closer and closer to making a very big decision: whether to continue providing health insurance to workers after the Affordable Care Act’s coverage subsidies come online.

    Health insurance is expensive, costing employers $15,073 on average to cover one worker and the employee’s family. If companies with more than 50 workers stopped offering coverage, they would face a fine that is significantly smaller than that cost, at $2,000 per employee.

    Which makes this Towers-Watson survey all the more surprising: The consulting firm polled 512 companies that employed more than 1,000 workers each. These are companies that spend at least $5 million in health benefits annually. They were asked how likely it was that they would drop coverage in 2014 and send employers to the new health care exchanges being created to accommodate the law.

    Not a single employer said that scenario was “very likely.” A mere 3 percent ranked it “somewhat likely.” The vast majority — 77 percent said — it was “not likely” that they would stop offering health insurance.

  • Urban Institute: Deteriorating Health Insurance Coverage from 2000 to 2010: Coverage Takes the Biggest Hit in the South and Midwest. By Fredric Blavin, John Holahan, Genevieve M. Kenney, and Vicki Chen. Abstract: This study creates a pre-reform baseline trend for an evaluation of the Affordable Care Act's (ACA) impact on health insurance coverage in the United States. Using the 2000 to 2010 Current Population Survey (CPS), this brief analyzes coverage trends among children, parents, and childless adults, overall and by ACA-relevant income groups. We find that over the past decade, rates of employer-sponsored insurance (ESI) have steadily deteriorated across these population groups, with more substantial declines occurring among the lower-income categories; all three population groups saw increases in Medicaid/CHIP coverage, with children experiencing the largest increase; and the percent of parents and childless adults without health insurance steadily increased whereas the percent of children without health insurance has slightly decreased.
  • New York Times editorial: The Vacuum Behind the Slogans. Excerpts: The party that claims to have all the answers on Medicare seemed to have no interest in sharing them with the American people at its convention on Wednesday. The session, devoted to the theme of “We Can Change It,” never went any deeper than that slogan or a few others: Reform Medicare. Strengthen Medicare. Protect Medicare.

    All without the slightest hint of how that supposed reform or strengthening would take place, regarding that program and many others. “We will not duck the tough issues; we will lead,” said Representative Paul Ryan, in his speech accepting the vice-presidential nomination. “We will not spend four years blaming others; we will take responsibility.”

    Sounds great, except that the speech ducked the tough issues and blamed others for the problems.

    Mr. Ryan, who rose to prominence on the Republican barricades with a plan to turn Medicare into a voucher system, never uttered the word “voucher” to the convention. He said Medicare was there for his grandmother and mother, but neglected to say that he considers it too generous to be there in the same form for future grandmothers (while firmly opposing the higher taxes on the rich that could keep it strong). He never mentioned his plan to abandon Medicaid on the doorstep of the states, or that his budget wouldn’t come close to a balance for 28 years.

    The reasons for that are clear: Details are a turn-off, at a boisterous convention or apparently in a full campaign. A New York Times poll last week showed that the Medicare plan advocated by Mr. Ryan and Mitt Romney was highly unpopular in the swing states of Florida, Ohio and Wisconsin. As soon as voters find out that the Republicans plan to offer retirees a fixed amount, they disapprove, clearly preferring the existing system.

    The Romney campaign knows this, of course, so it has developed a counterstrategy that was fully on display at the convention for those who might have missed it on the trail: Don’t change the plans, but don’t talk about them, either. Instead, invent a phony attack on President Obama’s policies, which are public in full detail, and hope that voters get so confused that they throw up their hands and cast their vote on some other issue or on emotion.

  • New York Times op-ed: The Medicare Killers. By Paul Krugman. Excerpts: Paul Ryan’s speech Wednesday night may have accomplished one good thing: It finally may have dispelled the myth that he is a Serious, Honest Conservative. Indeed, Mr. Ryan’s brazen dishonesty left even his critics breathless.

    Some of his fibs were trivial but telling, like his suggestion that President Obama is responsible for a closed auto plant in his hometown, even though the plant closed before Mr. Obama took office. Others were infuriating, like his sanctimonious declaration that “the truest measure of any society is how it treats those who cannot defend or care for themselves.” This from a man proposing savage cuts in Medicaid, which would cause tens of millions of vulnerable Americans to lose health coverage. ...

    But Mr. Ryan’s big lie — and, yes, it deserves that designation — was his claim that “a Romney-Ryan administration will protect and strengthen Medicare.” Actually, it would kill the program. ...

    The Republican Party is now firmly committed to replacing Medicare with what we might call Vouchercare. The government would no longer pay your major medical bills; instead, it would give you a voucher that could be applied to the purchase of private insurance. And, if the voucher proved insufficient to buy decent coverage, hey, that would be your problem. (Editor's note: IBM retirees are familiar with this approach!)

    Moreover, the vouchers almost certainly would be inadequate; their value would be set by a formula taking no account of likely increases in health care costs.

    Why would anyone think that this was a good idea? The G.O.P. platform says that it “will empower millions of seniors to control their personal health care decisions.” Indeed. Because those of us too young for Medicare just feel so personally empowered, you know, when dealing with insurance companies.

    Still, wouldn’t private insurers reduce costs through the magic of the marketplace? No. All, and I mean all, the evidence says that public systems like Medicare and Medicaid, which have less bureaucracy than private insurers (if you can’t believe this, you’ve never had to deal with an insurance company) and greater bargaining power, are better than the private sector at controlling costs.

    I know this flies in the face of free-market dogma, but it’s just a fact. You can see this fact in the history of Medicare Advantage, which is run through private insurers and has consistently had higher costs than traditional Medicare. You can see it from comparisons between Medicaid and private insurance: Medicaid costs much less. And you can see it in international comparisons: The United States has the most privatized health system in the advanced world and, by far, the highest health costs.

  • Huffington Post: The Romney-Ryan Budget: Turning Medicare Into a Boon for the Insurance Industry and a Bust for Seniors. By Terry O'Neil, President, National Organization for Women. Excerpts: First off: Although the Romney-Ryan budget plan goes to some length trying to disguise it, the reality is that converting Medicare to a privatized voucher system is a key element of the Romney-Ryan scheme.

    In other words, take health care coverage for retirees out of the hands of the U.S. government, where it has worked comparatively well, and shift it to the private market, which has proven to be a high-cost failure for most everyone else. Oh, and simultaneously repeal Obamacare, so the array of benefits that recently became available to seniors, often without co-pays or deductibles, disappears. Women especially should beware. Senior women's median annual income is shockingly low: just $15,282, compared with $25,877 for men. Where are senior women supposed to find the resources to pay the extra costs for their health care?

    Remember, Medicare isn't designed to make a profit, while that is the main mission of private companies -- to produce lots of money for their investors. The health outcomes of seniors are secondary to private insurers. The reason Medicare was introduced in the first place is because, as we age, we have less income just as we start developing more health issues and needs. This is when we need stability, reliability and affordability most in our health coverage.

    But the Romney-Ryan budget prods seniors into taking their chances in the private market, which is exactly where the right-wing always funnels public money whenever it can. And what a favor they're doing for retirees: Isn't that how all of us want to spend our golden years -- shopping for health insurance that won't break us financially yet will provide all the services we require (or think we will require, because we can't know in advance what health condition might emerge next). ...

    Oh, and the Romney-Ryan plan also raises the Medicare eligibility age to 67, leaving millions of retired seniors high and dry -- without employer-based health care, relegated to the private health insurance market during the interim. And because the Romney-Ryan scheme repeals Obamacare, insurers would go right back to refusing coverage based on "pre-existing conditions," and wouldn't be required to cover life-saving preventive services like mammograms, bone scans and screenings for a range of conditions (heart disease, high blood pressure and cervical cancer, for example) without co-pays. ...

    When President Lyndon Johnson signed Medicare into law in 1965, he said: "No longer will older Americans be denied the healing miracle of modern medicine. No longer will illness crush and destroy the savings that they have so carefully put away over a lifetime." Our nation has the ability to protect and enhance President Johnson's vision of health care for all. But the Romney-Ryan plan to convert Medicare to a private voucher system takes us in exactly the wrong direction.

News and Opinion Concerning the "War on the Middle Class"
Minimize "It is a restatement of laissez-faire-let things take their natural course without government interference. If people manage to become prosperous, good. If they starve, or have no place to live, or no money to pay medical bills, they have only themselves to blame; it is not the responsibility of society. We mustn't make people dependent on government- it is bad for them, the argument goes. Better hunger than dependency, better sickness than dependency."

"But dependency on government has never been bad for the rich. The pretense of the laissez-faire people is that only the poor are dependent on government, while the rich take care of themselves. This argument manages to ignore all of modern history, which shows a consistent record of laissez-faire for the poor, but enormous government intervention for the rich." From Economic Justice: The American Class System, from the book Declarations of Independence by Howard Zinn.

  • AlterNet: The Billionaires Bill of Rights. California's Proposition 32, on the ballot this November, would severely limit unions' election spending while leaving corporations free to spend as much as they like. By Dick Meister. Excerpts: Billionaire corporate interests and other well financed anti-labor forces are waging a major drive to stifle the political voice of workers and their unions in California that is certain to spread nationwide if not stopped - and stopped now.

    At issue is a highly deceptive measure, Proposition 32, on the state's November election ballot, that its anti-labor sponsors label as an even-handed attempt to limit campaign spending. But actually, it would limit - and severely - only the spending of unions while leaving corporations and other moneyed special interests free to spend as much as they like.

    Unions would be prohibited from making political contributions with money collected from voluntary paycheck deductions authorized by their members, which is the main source of union political funds.

    But there would be no limits on corporations, whose political funds come from their profits, their customers or suppliers and the contributions of corporate executives. Nor would there be any limit on the political spending of the executives or any other wealthy individuals. What's more, corporate special interests and billionaires could still give unlimited millions to secretive "Super PACs" that can raise unlimited amounts of money anonymously to finance their political campaigns. ...

    Anti-labor interests are already outspending unions nationwide by a ratio of more than $15 for every $1 spent by unions. Between 2000 and 2011, that amounted to $700 million spent by anti-labor forces, while unions spent just a little more than $284 million.

  • A Taxing Blog: Romney’s Management Fee Conversions. By Victor Fleischer — Professor of Law, University of Colorado. Excerpts: Two and Twenty. Private equity fund managers are compensated in two primary ways: management fees and carried interest. The management fee, traditionally two percent annually, is paid to the managers to cover overhead, salaries, and so forth. The carried interest, traditionally twenty percent, is a share of the profits from the underlying investments. My paper Two and Twenty described the typical arrangement. Management fees are taxed at ordinary income rates; carried interest is often taxed at capital gains rates. I focused in the article on why the carried interest portion is better viewed like bonus compensation and should be taxed at ordinary income rates.

    Management Fee Conversion. Current law on carried interest is already a sweetheart tax deal for private equity, but why not make it better? Private equity folks are not the type to walk past a twenty-dollar bill lying on the sidewalk. In the 2000s it became common for private equity fund managers to “convert” their management fees into carried interest. There are many variations on the theme, but here’s how many deals worked: each year, before the annual management fee comes due, the fund manager waives the management fee in exchange for a priority allocation of future profits. There is minimal economic risk involved; as long as the fund, at some point, has a profitable quarter, the managers get paid. (If the managers don’t foresee any future profits, they won’t waive the fees, and they will take cash instead.) In exchange for a minimal amount of economic risk, the tax benefit is enormous: the compensation is transformed from ordinary income (taxed at 35%) into capital gain (taxed at 15%). Because the management fees for a large private equity fund can be ten or twenty million per year, the tax dodge can literally save millions in taxes every year.

    The problem is that it is not legal. Because the deals vary in their aggressiveness, there is some disagreement among practitioners about when it works and when it doesn’t. But in my opinion, and the opinion of many tax practitioners, the practices that were common in the private equity industry in the 2000s became very, very questionable, and it’s unlikely that they would have stood up in court.

    Fund VII. Gawker today posted some Bain documents today showing that Bain, like many other PE firms, had engaged in this practice of converting management fees into capital gain. Unlike carried interest, which is unseemly but perfectly legal, Bain’s management fee conversions are not legal. If challenged in court, Bain would lose. The Bain partners, in my opinion, misreported their income if they reported these converted fees as capital gain instead of ordinary income.

  • AlterNet: 5 Countries Where You Don't Have to Work Yourself to Death to Make Ends Meet. America is no worker's paradise. By Sarah Seltzer. Excerpts: Earlier this summer we explored some things we could do as a nation to improve work-life balance, from the basic (paid sick leave, anyone?) to the truly innovative. This time, we're looking around the world: which countries fare better than ours in helping citizens survive without working themselves to death?

    The Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) makes a study of this sort of thing, ranking countries on quality of life -- the “Better Life Index” -- based on a number of factors, including work-life balance, safety, health, longevity, and more. So using that series of data as well as other information, the following are some countries that have better work-life balance--either overall, or in individual categories--than we do. And yes, though the Scandinavian countries basically kick everyone else’s ass in this category, we didn’t exclusively highlight them, since there are so many other countries that best us in this area we had the liberty to choose from among them. ...

    Denmark: Overall champ. This pesky little Scandinavian country comes out on top of nearly all these sorts of rankings, doesn't it? But it comes down to the numbers: Less than 2% of its workforce work those extra-long hours, and it is closest to gender parity of any country. Each day, Danes are able to spend about two-thirds of their hours sleeping, eating, taking care of themselves and chilling out--not bad at all. In fact, it's also number one in global happiness by some measures.

    One British couple moved to Denmark to start a family, and found themselves astounded by the improved life they were leading:

    Since moving from Finsbury Park in London to Copenhagen three years ago with my husband Duncan, our quality of life has skyrocketed and our once staunch London loyalism has been replaced by an almost embarrassing enthusiasm for everything "Dansk."

    The greatest change has been the shift in work-life balance. Whereas previously we might snatch dinner once Duncan escaped from work at around nine, he now leaves his desk at five. Work later than 5:30 and the office is a morgue. Work at the weekend and the Danes think you are mad. The idea is that families have time to play and eat together at the end of the day, every day. And it works. Duncan bathes and puts our 14-month-old daughter Liv to bed most nights. They are best buddies as opposed to strangers who try to reacquaint at the weekend.

  • InvestmentNews: How Mitt Romney dramatically lowers his tax bill. Trusts and IRA shield money from the IRS; 'push the money downstream'. Excerpts: Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney and his wife, Ann, have used sophisticated estate- planning techniques for more than a decade to minimize taxes and amass at least $100 million for their family outside of their estate. ...

    Wealthy couples use strategies allowed under the federal tax system such as moving assets to trusts so that the money may be subject to little or no gift and estate taxes, Sloan said. The Romney family trust is worth $100 million, according to the campaign. That money isn't included in the couple's personal fortune, which the campaign estimates at as much as $250 million.

    Romney's use of the tax code to minimize levies for his family has drawn scrutiny from Democrats portraying him as an elite person of wealth who is out of touch with many Americans.

    Estate Tax. The Romneys would pay higher taxes under the estate-tax proposals of President Barack Obama and would pay less under Romney's plan. Obama has proposed increasing the estate tax from current levels and curtailing wealth-transfer strategies. The Republican presidential candidate wants to eliminate the estate tax, which currently applies a top rate of 35 percent and a $10.24 million exemption on a married couple's combined assets.

    A repeal of the levy may save the Romneys about $70 million in federal estate taxes after they both die, assuming the couple's combined taxable estate was $200 million after deductions for items such as administrative expenses and charitable contributions. Compared with today's rates, Obama's proposal may cost the Romneys an additional $20 million.

  • Washington Post: Bain documents reveal tax and offshore details. By Tom Hamburger and Brady Dennis. Excerpts: A cache of internal Bain Capital documents released Thursday provides new information about the operations and holdings of the financial company founded by Mitt Romney, including details of investments in the Cayman Islands and other tax havens. More than 900 pages of financial statements, investor reports and other documents released by Gawker.com also contain new details of investments Romney holds in a variety of Bain funds. ...

    Bain issued a statement lamenting Gawker’s release of the documents.

    “The unauthorized disclosure of a number of confidential fund financial statements is unfortunate. Our fund financials are routinely prepared by auditors and demonstrate a commitment to transparency with our investors and regulators, and compliance with all laws,” the statement said. The auditing firm that prepared most of the documents declined to comment Thursday, citing client confidentiality. ...

    The partnership also made a series of investments in complicated financial transactions such as foreign currency contracts and credit-default swaps — private agreements that serve as a form of insurance in case of a default. The documents also show that Bain used a few “blocker” companies based in the Cayman Islands. These companies are often set up to protect nonprofit clients, such as pension funds and university endowments, and foreign investors from U.S. taxes.

  • In These Times: ‘Outsourced’ Workers Chase Elusive ‘Romney Hood’. After Bain moved their jobs to China, three auto-parts workers are knocking on Romney’s door. By David Moberg. Excerpts: Cheryl Randecker is hot on the trail of an elusive bandit, and she needs your help. The bad guy's name is Romney Hood. Unlike his good twin Robin, Romney made a career of robbing the poor to get rich before setting off on a quest to be president so that he could help all the rich rob all the poor. (Business school MBAs call this “scaling up.”)

    But Romney's old gang–the Bain (Capital) Gang–is still hard at work in the guise of a private equity firm. And Sensata, a Bain-owned company, is now in the process of shutting down the Freeport, Ill., sensor factory that it bought from Honeywell, in order to relocate it to China. Meanwhile, the roughly 170 workers like Randecker at the plant have been training their Chinese replacements while facing unemployment this November, in a region that has lost much of its once-strong industrial base.

    In a last-ditch effort to save the jobs that the overwhelmingly female and middle-aged workforce has relied on to raise their families–often for several decades–Randecker and her co-workers have been trying to meet with candidate and Bain co-founder Mitt Romney to ask him to intervene.

    They went to Romney campaign offices in Davenport, Iowa, and in Madison, Wis., where campaign staff called the police to disperse the workers–many of whom have voted for Republicans in past elections. ...

    After years of making good quality products and healthy profits for their employer, workers were stunned when Sensata managers announced last year they were closing the plant right after buying it. Only recently, Randecker said, did management offer an explanation: Labor and materials are cheaper in China.

    Randecker notes, however, that Chinese labor is less skilled. She claims that in some cases, it will take 13 Chinese worker to do what one Freeport worker did. Some analysts argue that markets for the products are shifting to China, but Randecker points out that U.S. auto companies–who have large U.S. market needs–are among Sensata's major customers.

  • Cleveland Plain-Dealer: Coal miners lost pay when Mitt Romney visited their mine to promote coal jobs. By Sabrina Eaton. Excerpt: When GOP presidential candidate Mitt Romney visited an Ohio coal mine this month to promote jobs in the coal industry, workers who appeared with him at the rally lost pay because their mine was shut down.

    The Pepper Pike company that owns the Century Mine told workers that attending the Aug. 14 Romney event would be both mandatory and unpaid, a top company official said Monday morning in a West Virginia radio interview.

    A group of employees who feared they'd be fired if they didn't attend the campaign rally in Beallsville, Ohio, complained about it to WWVA radio station talk show host David Blomquist. Blomquist discussed their beefs on the air Monday with Murray Energy Chief Financial Officer Rob Moore.

  • Washington Post opinion: Extremism in defense of Gilded Age privilege. By Katrina vanden Heuvel. Excerpts: As Isaac — happily not named Katrina II — grew into a hurricane threatening the Gulf Coast, Louisiana’s conservative governor, Bobby Jindal, made it clear he didn’t want big government interference. Rep. Paul Ryan, Mitt Romney’s running mate and tea party poster boy, said he was happy that Republicans had slashed spending on FEMA, the federal emergency agency, and were committed to his budget that would eviscerate domestic spending, including on FEMA. Louisiana homeowners, he added, would do better with a tax cut. ...

    In fact, Republican governors called on President Obama for emergency aid. Gov Jindal criticized the federal government for not doing enough, even after Obama declared a national emergency. ...

    For all the zealotry of the Christian Coalition or the tea party, the Romney-Ryan ticket is most notable for its fierce defense of privilege. Consider:

    At a time when the top 1 percent of Americans captured a staggering 93 percent of national income growth in 2010, Romney advocates both extending the extra Bush tax cuts for the rich and another round of tax cuts that would offer those making a million or more another $175,000 annual tax break.

    Romney says he’ll pay for these tax cuts by closing loopholes, but he refuses to reveal which ones. But he does state clearly that he won’t end the biggest loophole of all for the very wealthy — the 15 percent tax on capital gains and dividends. And as befits the man from Bain, he won’t condemn the ridiculous tax dodge — the so-called “carried-interest” tax rate — that allows private-equity billionaires to report their fees as capital gains rather than as wages. The result, as the nonpartisan Tax Policy Center reports, is that Romney is running on a policy that will raise taxes on working families and lower them on the rich. ...

    Similarly, at a time when some multinational corporations, such as General Electric, with billions in profits, pay no taxes at all, Romney advocates lowering the corporate tax rate. As we know from the one full tax return he revealed, Romney, the man from Bain, took advantage of every foreign-tax-avoidance gimmick known to accountants — Swiss bank accounts, Cayman Islands shell corporations and more. Does he use this knowledge of tax dodges to advocate cleaning up the corporate tax code? Not exactly. Romney calls for a “territorial tax system” that would tax only profits reported in the United States. This effectively turns the entire world into a potential tax haven for multinationals.

    Wall Street excesses — featuring what the FBI called an “epidemic” of fraud — blew up the economy and effectively doubled our national debt. But Romney, as befits the man from Bain, sees financialization of the economy as a feature, not a bug.

    So he pledges to repeal rather than strengthen Dodd-Frank, the financial reforms designed to put some rules around the big banks. And, of course, he’s a strong opponent of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, which was designed to give consumers some protection against financial predators. ...

    “Extremism in defense of liberty,” conservative icon Barry Goldwater once said, “is no vice.” But extremism in defense of privilege is no virtue. In Tampa, the tea party gets its anti-government, anti-immigrant planks in the platform, and the Christian Coalition its war on women; but the big money is pouring in to support the praetorian guard of privilege at the top of the ticket.

  • The Christian Science Monitor: Mitt Romney vs fact-checkers: the welfare law dispute. Mitt Romney's campaign continues to claim that Obama removed the work requirement from the welfare law, despite refutations from fact-checkers and respected newspapers. By Robert Reich. Excerpts: “We’re not going to let our campaign be dictated by fact-checkers,” says Neil Newhouse, a Romney pollster.

    A half dozen fact-checking organizations and websites have refuted Romney’s claims that Obama removed the work requirement from the welfare law and will cut Medicare benefits by $216 billion.

    Last Sunday’s New York Times even reported on its front page that Romney has been “falsely charging” President Obama with removing the work requirement. Those are strong words from the venerable Times. Yet Romney is still making the false charge. Ads containing it continue to be aired.

    Presumably the Romney campaign continues its false claims because they’re effective. But this raises a more basic question: How can they remain effective when they’ve been so overwhelmingly discredited by the media?

    The answer is the Republican Party has developed three means of bypassing the mainstream media and its fact-checkers.

    The first is by repeating big lies so often in TV spots – financed by a mountain of campaign money – that the public can no longer recall (if it ever knew) that the mainstream media and its fact-checkers have found them to be lies.

    The second is by discrediting the mainstream media – asserting it’s run by “liberal elites” that can’t be trusted to tell the truth. “I am tired of the elite media protecting Barack Obama by attacking Republicans,” Newt Gingrich charged at a Republican debate last January, in what’s become a standard GOP attack line.

    The third is by using its own misinformation outlets – led by Fox News, Rush Limbaugh and his yell-radio imitators, book publisher Regnery, and the editorial page of the Wall Street Journal, along with a right-wing blogosphere – to spread the lies, or at least spread doubt about what’s true.

    Together, these three mechanisms are creating a parallel Republican universe of Orwellian dimension – where anything can be asserted, where pollsters and political advisers are free to create whatever concoction of lies will help elect their candidate, and where “fact-checkers” are as irrelevant and intrusive as is the truth.

  • The Huffington Post: The Hard Truth About Romney's Republican Party. By Robert L. Borosage. Excerpts: But in fact, Mitt Romney's Republican Party isn't passionate about reducing deficits. A candidate that promises to hand out another $900 billion in tax breaks a year by 2015, mostly to the already wealthy, isn't focused on deficits. And telling "hard truths" is not a trait of a candidate who promises to pay for those tax cuts by closing loopholes he won't identify, and pledges deep cuts in spending but refuses to reveal what he would cut. ...

    What this Romney-Ryan ticket represents in fact is clear: a preferential option for the rich and a punitive imposition on the poor.

    Romney and Ryan don't hesitate to detail the taxes they would cut and the loopholes they would preserve. A 20% tax cut across the board above the extended Bush taxes, will hand millionaires an average $175,000 a year tax break. Corporations will get not only a cut in tax rates, but a "territorial corporate tax" system that exempts companies from U.S. taxes for anything reported as earned abroad, giving multinationals a million dollar incentive to transfer jobs and report profits abroad. They'll abolish the estate tax that applies only to multi-million dollar estates of the top 1%. And they vow to defend the favorite loophole of the wealthy: the 15% tax rate on capital gains and dividends and on "carried interest" (the obscene tax dodge that enables Bain partners and other private equity guys to treat their fees as capital gains rather than income). This is the tax break that enables Romney to pay a 14% tax rate on $20 million in income, and Warren Buffett, one of America's richest men, to pay a lower tax rate than his secretary. Much is still secreted from the voters, but the preferential option for the rich is detailed for donors to see. ...

    So behind the multi-million dollar stage in Tampa, beneath the glittery "reintroduction" of Mitt Romney as a pragmatic business guy, lies this "hard truth." With the US suffering Gilded Age levels of inequality, Romney will fight for more tax cuts for the very wealthy and the corporations. And with record numbers in poverty, Mitt's promise is to savage vital programs for the vulnerable. Forget about the Tea Party's ersatz anti Wall Street populism or the Christian Coalition's war on women. This is the candidate and the party of privilege, intent on lavishing more benefits on the few while savaging the already inadequate support for the poor and the vulnerable. That's the "hard truth" Chris Christie didn't bother to mention.

  • New York Times editorial: How the Republicans Built It. Excerpts: Gov. Chris Christie of New Jersey, in the keynote speech, angrily demanded that the American people learn the hard truths about the two parties, but like most of those at the microphone, he failed to supply any. He said his state needed his austere discipline of slashed budgets, canceled public projects and broken public unions, but did not mention that New Jersey now has a higher unemployment rate than when he took over, and never had the revenue boom he promised from tax cuts.

    “We believe in telling our seniors the truth about our overburdened entitlements,” he said, but his party has consistently refused to come clean about its real plans to undo Medicare and Medicaid. “Mitt Romney will tell us the hard truths we need to hear to put us back on a path to growth,” he said, but Mr. Romney has consistently refused to tell the truth about his tax plan, his budget plan, and his health care plan.

  • Associated Press, courtesy of Yahoo! News: FACT CHECK: Ryan takes factual shortcuts in speech. By Cal Woodward and Jack Gillum. Excerpts: GOP vice presidential nominee Paul Ryan took some factual shortcuts during the Republican convention when he attacked President Barack Obama's policies on Medicare, the economic stimulus and the budget deficit. His running mate, Mitt Romney, was expected to speak later Thursday in the convention's culmination. ...

    Ryan: "And the biggest, coldest power play of all in Obamacare came at the expense of the elderly. ... So they just took it all away from Medicare. Seven hundred and sixteen billion dollars, funneled out of Medicare by President Obama."

    The Facts: Ryan's claim ignores the fact that Ryan himself incorporated the same cuts into budgets he steered through the House in the past two years as chairman of its Budget Committee, using the money for deficit reduction. And the cuts do not affect Medicare recipients directly, but rather reduce payments to hospitals, health insurance plans and other service providers.

    In addition, Ryan's own plan to remake Medicare would squeeze the program's spending even more than the changes Obama made, shifting future retirees into a system in which they would get a fixed payment to shop for coverage among private insurance plans. Critics charge that would expose the elderly to more out-of-pocket costs.

    Ryan: "The stimulus was a case of political patronage, corporate welfare and cronyism at their worst. You, the working men and women of this country, were cut out of the deal."

    The Facts: Ryan himself asked for stimulus funds shortly after Congress approved the $800 billion plan, known as the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act. Ryan's pleas to federal agencies included letters to Energy Secretary Steven Chu and Labor Secretary Hilda Solis seeking stimulus grant money for two Wisconsin energy conservation companies.

    One of them, the nonprofit Wisconsin Energy Conservation Corp., received $20.3 million from the Energy Department to help homes and businesses improve energy efficiency, according to federal records. That company, he said in his letter, would build "sustainable demand for green jobs." Another eventual recipient, the Energy Center of Wisconsin, received about $365,000.

    Ryan: Said Obama misled people in Ryan's hometown of Janesville, Wis., by making them think a General Motors plant there threatened with closure could be saved. "A lot of guys I went to high school with worked at that GM plant. Right there at that plant, candidate Obama said: 'I believe that if our government is there to support you ... this plant will be here for another hundred years.' That's what he said in 2008. Well, as it turned out, that plant didn't last another year."

    The Facts: The plant halted production in December 2008, weeks before Obama took office and well before he enacted a more robust auto industry bailout that rescued GM and Chrysler and allowed the majority of their plants — though not the Janesville facility — to stay in operation. Ryan himself voted for an auto bailout under President George W. Bush that was designed to help GM, but he was a vocal critic of the one pushed through by Obama that has been widely credited with revitalizing both GM and Chrysler.

    Ryan: Obama "created a bipartisan debt commission. They came back with an urgent report. He thanked them, sent them on their way and then did exactly nothing."

    The Facts: It's true that Obama hasn't heeded his commission's recommendations, but Ryan's not the best one to complain. He was a member of the commission and voted against its final report.

  • Investment News: GOP eager to cut taxes — but which ones? Campaigning on lowering tax man's bite without offering specifics; 'taking their lives into their hands'. Excerpts: Republicans are pitching their tax overhaul plan on the appeal of lower rates and a simpler system -- and figuring that voters won't mind the lack of details about the potential pain.

    Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney, vice presidential candidate Paul Ryan and U.S. House members don't say what tax breaks they would limit or eliminate to offset the more than $4 trillion cost of cutting individual and corporate income tax rates. The approach lets Republicans deflect criticism now and iron out the specifics after the election. ...

    Proposing cutbacks in tax breaks for charitable contributions, mortgage interest and employer-provided health insurance could mobilize well-organized opponents, said Phil English, a former Republican congressman from Pennsylvania. “Anybody is taking their life into their hands by offering very much specific detail,” said English, now a lobbyist at Arent Fox LLP in Washington. “Fundamental tax reform is for Republicans what fundamental health-care reform has been for Democrats,” central to the party's agenda though the details are “very difficult to explain in the context of a campaign that involves 30-second TV spots.”

  • Washington Post opinion: Mr. Ryan’s misleading speech. Excerpts: That, however, wasn’t on Mr. Ryan’s agenda. Instead he offered a speech that was part introduction of himself and his small-town origins, part testimonial to his running mate and — in largest part — a slashing and, in many elements, misleading indictment of President Obama as both a spent force and a threat to American freedom. Mr. Romney and Mr. Obama have starkly different visions about the role of government, but to caricature the president’s vision as “a government-planned life, where everything is free but us” insults voters who surely know better. Emblematic of the liberties Mr. Ryan took was his depiction of the hometown auto plant whose shuttering he implicitly blamed on Mr. Obama — even though the plant closed before the president was inaugurated. ...

    Mr. Ryan’s selection prompted a serious discussion of Medicare reform but also ushered in a depressingly predictable series of “Mediscare” charges and counter-charges. Mr. Ryan stooped to some of that Wednesday night, asserting that “the greatest threat to Medicare is Obamacare,” although the health care law began the hard task of reforming the program. He assailed Mr. Obama for having “funneled” $716 billion out of Medicare, without mention that his own budget assumed cuts of precisely that magnitude.

  • Fox News: Paul Ryan’s speech in 3 words. By Sally Kohn. Excerpts: Deceiving. On the other hand, to anyone paying the slightest bit of attention to facts, Ryan’s speech was an apparent attempt to set the world record for the greatest number of blatant lies and misrepresentations slipped into a single political speech. On this measure, while it was Romney who ran the Olympics, Ryan earned the gold.

    Fact: While Ryan tried to pin the downgrade of the United States’ credit rating on spending under President Obama, the credit rating was actually downgraded because Republicans threatened not to raise the debt ceiling.

    Fact: While Ryan blamed President Obama for the shut down of a GM plant in Janesville, Wisconsin, the plant was actually closed under President George W. Bush. Ryan actually asked for federal spending to save the plant, while Romney has criticized the auto industry bailout that President Obama ultimately enacted to prevent other plants from closing.

    Fact: Though Ryan insisted that President Obama wants to give all the credit for private sector success to government, that isn't what the president said. Period.

    Fact: Though Paul Ryan accused President Obama of taking $716 billion out of Medicare, the fact is that that amount was savings in Medicare reimbursement rates (which, incidentally, save Medicare recipients out-of-pocket costs, too) and Ryan himself embraced these savings in his budget plan.

    Elections should be about competing based on your record in the past and your vision for the future, not competing to see who can get away with the most lies and distortions without voters noticing or bother to care. Both parties should hold themselves to that standard. Republicans should be ashamed that there was even one misrepresentation in Ryan’s speech but sadly, there were many.

  • The Fiscal Times: The Republican Jobs Plan: Trust Us to Do Better. By Bruce Bartlett. Excerpts: At this week’s convention, Republicans had two main goals. First was to convince voters that Barack Obama’s policies have been totally ineffectual in curing the economic recession. Second, to convince voters that they have a coherent plan for improving the economy, especially reducing unemployment. They succeeded on the first, not so much on the second. ...

    However, it is difficult to say exactly what Mr. Romney would do to create jobs. The plan published on his campaign’s website is long on facts about joblessness and assertions that Obama’s policies did not work. But in the end, Romney merely says that voters should trust him and his 25 years of business experience to figure out some way to reduce unemployment. No detailed plan to do so is offered.

    Of course, Mr. Romney has a number of specific economic proposals. He would cut tax rates sharply from levels that are already low by historical standards, he would scale-back government regulation, promote U.S. exports, increase domestic energy exploration, and scale back government spending, among other things.

    But one will search Romney’s website in vain for a clear explanation for how these policies will create jobs or even raise the rate of economic growth. The report by his top economic advisers on August 2 is devoted almost exclusively to the problem of structural unemployment. There is no mention of policies to reduce cyclical unemployment—those unemployed only because of the general downturn in the economy through no fault of their own.

    All Republicans in Congress have voted against every effort to enact stimulus programs to reduce unemployment, and Republican economists routinely assert that stimulus is per se ineffective and perhaps even counterproductive. This makes it very awkward for Republicans to propose plans for the cyclically unemployed.

    Republicans know that standard macroeconomic theory since the 1930s has said that government spending, especially on public works, is the best means of attacking economic downturns and reducing unemployment. Since they are ideologically opposed to this idea in principle, they simply ignore the problem of business cycles and cyclical unemployment. ...

    Thus one explanation for Mr. Romney’s reluctance to put forward a jobs program may be that he thinks that monetary policy can do the job. However, it is impossible to say that this is the case because Romney’s views on monetary policy are a mystery. All we know for certain is that he plans to fire Ben Bernanke as chairman of the Federal Reserve despite the fact that he is a Republican who served as chairman of the Council of Economic Advisers under George W. Bush. ...

    Therefore, unless he's hiding it, there really is no Romney plan to reduce cyclical unemployment. And his plan to reduce structural unemployment relies heavily on tax cuts for the rich on the theory that wealthy people are entrepreneurs who will start more companies and create jobs if their taxes are cut. Although there is virtually no empirical evidence that this will happen, Republicans seem to believe it dogmatically.

    An objective review of recent U.S. economic history would note that the greatest reduction in unemployment occurred under Bill Clinton, whose first major act in office in 1993 was to raise the top individual income tax rate from 31 percent to 39.6 percent. By contrast, George W. Bush, who took office in 2001, lavished huge tax cuts on the wealthy in 2003 and saw minuscule growth in jobs afterwards.

  • The Economist: Fact-checkers. Talking crap in Holland v America. The entire front page of the Volkskrant, one of the three top Dutch newspapers, is taken up today by an article about the misleading statements and inaccuracies in Paul Ryan's convention speech on Wednesday. This is interesting largely because the Netherlands is in the middle of its own election campaign, a pretty vicious one in which the leading parties are the laissez-faire Liberals and the far-left Socialists, and the vote is scheduled for September 12th. So you'd think the newspapers would be more occupied with their own country's political business than with controversies about who is or isn't lying in the American presidential campaign. One reason for the attention is that America really is a pretty important country. The other reason is that the story is piggybacking on an analogous controversy that's kicked up this week in the Dutch elections over truth, neutrality and budget assessments, and the comparison is instructive.

    The Dutch have a system intended to avoid the sort of fact-free insult-hurling that has plagued America's presidential race this year. The discussion in America over the rival candidates' budget plans has taken place in a vague and undefined discursive space, largely because the Romney-Ryan campaign does not actually have a budget plan. Mr Romney says he will keep the Bush tax cuts, slash income tax rates across the board by 20%, eliminate capital-gains tax for income under $100,000 per year, maintain defence spending, restore the $716 billion over ten years which the Obama (and Ryan) budget would have cut from Medicare outlays, and shrink the budget deficit by closing tax preferences, none of which he specifies. This doesn't add up, as the Center for Tax Policy found last month, but it's hard to say just how it will fail to add up, because Mr Romney has no item-by-item budget plan; we really have no idea how much he proposes to spend if he's elected.

    In the Dutch electoral system, this can't happen. Two months before the elections, every political party is expected to submit a detailed budget plan to a non-partisan agency called the Central Plan Bureau (CPB), which plays a role similar to the Congressional Budget Office in America. The CPB produces an analysis of the economic consequences of those budget plans. The effects are assessed in detail for 2013-2017, and there's also a prognosis for 2040 to discourage parties from larding up their budgets with short-term candy that leads to negative long-term consequences. ...

    What the comparison with the American example points out, though, is that, for all the current media scepticism, the mechanism of the CPB evaluation dramatically raises the caliber of the electoral debate in the Netherlands.

  • Huffington Post: Labor Day 2012 and the Election of 2012: It's Inequality, Stupid. By Robert Reich. Excerpts: The most troubling economic trend facing America this Labor Day weekend is the increasing concentration of income, wealth, and political power at the very top -- among a handful of extraordinarily wealthy people -- and the steady decline of the great American middle class. Inequality in America is at record levels. The 400 richest Americans now have more wealth than the bottom 150 million of us put together.

    Republicans claim the rich are job creators. Nothing could be further from the truth. In order to create jobs, businesses need customers. But the rich spend only a small fraction of what they earn. They park most of it wherever around the world they can get the highest return.

    The real job creators are the vast middle class, whose spending drives the economy and creates jobs.

    But as the middle class's share of total income continues to drop, it cannot spend as much as before. Nor can most Americans borrow as they did before the crash of 2008 -- borrowing that temporarily masked their declining purchasing power.

    As a result, businesses are reluctant to hire. This is the main reason why the recovery has been so anemic.

    As wealth and income rise to the top, moreover, so does political power. The rich are able to entrench themselves by lowering their taxes, gaining special tax breaks (such as the "carried interest" loophole allowing private equity and hedge fund managers to treat their incomes as capital gains), and ensuring a steady flow of corporate welfare to their businesses (special breaks for oil and gas, big agriculture, big insurance, Big Pharma, and, of course, Wall Street).

    All of this squeezes public budgets, corrupts government, and undermines our democracy. The issue isn't the size of our government; it's who our government is for. It has become less responsive to the needs of most citizens and more to the demands of a comparative few.

If you hire good people and treat them well, they will try to do a good job. They will stimulate one another by their vigor and example. They will set a fast pace for themselves. Then if they are well led and occasionally inspired, if they understand what the company is trying to do and know they will share in its sucess, they will contribute in a major way. The customer will get the superior service he is looking for. The result is profit to customers, employees, and to stcckholders. —Thomas J. Watson, Jr., from A Business and Its Beliefs: The Ideas That Helped Build IBM.

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